Dancers are born, not made--or so the saying goes. Glean Lewis' Cinderella story certainly supports that theory.
"I guess I'm just a natural," said the 23-year-old dancer. "I never had any training until I was about 20. Now I'm making a good living as a professional dancer, and I'm just happy to be successful at what I love to do."
Lewis was discovered by a United States International University dance instructor in a high school musical theater production in his hometown of Memphis.
"I guess they recognized something in me because they gave me a scholarship, even though I had never taken any lessons," Lewis recalled. "I always liked to dance, and dancing was easy for me. It still is. But I don't know why I came by it so naturally. Nobody in my family ever danced before."
With the right combination of talent and dedication, Lewis absorbed the technical aspects of dance, honing his skills through intensive training that included daily classes in ballet, jazz and modern at USIU in San Diego.
"I put myself on a deadline," he said, "taking a lot of classes and working very hard. I was never satisfied with myself, even though I was constantly progressing. I hope I won't ever be satisfied with myself, so I can be the best I can."
Two years ago--with only about a year of formal training--Lewis was chosen for the original cast of Sea World's "City Streets," a Vegas-style song-and-dance show that puts the emphasis on extroverted, high-voltage jazz dance.
"I took a leave of absence from school and became a professional dancer when I made the show, and I'm still with it," he said. "Now I'm the dance captain and choreographer, and assistant production lead."
Finally, after about three years in San Diego, Lewis will make his professional debut with a local dance troupe this weekend. The handsome 6-footer will dance three of the six pieces in Jazz Unlimited's Saturday and Sunday evening performances at San Diego State University's Dramatic Arts Theater.
"I'll be doing a jazz piece, a musical theater piece and a modern dance, all in contrasting styles," he said.
Company director Patricia Rincon considers her newest find "very promising. He's one of the freshest things in the company. He has good, solid technique and good stage presence."
What took the local dance community so long to recognize Lewis as a valuable resource?
"I don't think the other companies know about me," Lewis said. "There are so few good male dancers that when they find any, they usually take them."